Written by Jen Haugen
If you could push a button and talk to a real farmer, what would you say? Would you ask a question that’s been on your mind as you shop in the grocery store? As moms, we read things, we see things, we hear things and sometimes that can create some fear. Fear about whether we are feeding our kids the foods that will keep them safe. Fear that feeding them the wrong foods will make them sick. In this new Mom2Mom feature, I’ll be sharing stories from moms that can inspire all of us to live a fearless life. And today I want to give you the opportunity to talk to a farmer – Kristie Swenson, from Jackson, Minnesota. She’s a part of a volunteer group, called CommonGround, which connects women who grow food to the women that buy food (all of us!).
Small worlds collided when I met her at a conference, as I grew up with her husband – we were both in the same 4-H club and our parents were friends. And I’m totally impressed by Kristie – she’s a working mom to two, Teagen, nearly 4 years old, and Talic, a 1 year old and both her and her husband, Trelin, farm in southwest Minnesota. They grow corn and soybeans. The same crops my parents grew.
I’m a big fan of all types of farmers that are working hard to grow the food we all eat at our kitchen tables. After all, I remember the late nights my dad would drive up in the tractor in the dark, after a long day of working in the fields. So I’ve harvested a few stories for the month of November and I’m eager to share them with you.
Let’s meet Kristie.
Share some of your mom-life with us…how do you start your mornings?
“I get myself ready, and my husband, Trelin, and I take turns waking the boys if they don’t wake up on their own. I get Talic dressed and then Trelin feeds him, and Teagen dresses himself (we pick out his clothes the night before). I drop the boys off at daycare on my way to work.”
What’s your favorite family breakfast?
“Pancakes. My husband is a great pancake maker, and we all enjoy eating pancakes with warm syrup. Another family favorite is chocolate chip muffins – that’s our Sunday morning tradition before church.”
What’s a typical day look like?
“I was fortunate to earn a degree in Agricultural Education, specializing in Leadership Training and Development. And I work as an Assistant Vice President at the local bank near us. My typical day includes making loans to customers and/or reviewing loan files, developing marketing materials, monitoring compliance, and being HR. After work, I pick up the boys and we head home. At home, I’ll start making supper or help Trelin with farm work. Because I have a full-time job off the farm and we have 2 small children, I don’t get to do some of the physical labor that comes with being a farmer. I actually miss driving tractors and pulling weeds! I know my role will continue to evolve as our kids get older and start taking on chores.”
What’s your recipe to creating a nourishing life for yourself and your family?
“Take time to be a family. Our kids are at the ages where we are their biggest influencers. It’s really important to us to spend time together and to do things as a family, whether it’s cleaning or playing or eating meals together. Our kids want to spend time with us, so we make the most of it – because some day they’ll want to hang out with their friends instead of us. We make a point to eat meals together, which is a challenge in the spring (during planting) and in the fall (during harvest). Those days start early and end late, so instead of eating together as a family, we deliver food to the field. We make sure that Trelin and the boys get some time together, whether it’s getting them in the car in the morning or riding in the tractor for a little while. We really focus on being a family.”
What do you struggle with in feeding your family?
“I feel like I make the same meals over and over! I also find it challenging to make quick meals in 30 minutes on a weeknight because I don’t get home until 5:30pm.”
What’s your role on the farm?
“My husband and I joke that I’m CFO (Chief Financial Officer) and he’s the COO (Chief Operations Officer). He does most of the daily work and physical labor while I do more of the financial / accounting / management. During planting & harvest I transport people or equipment and get meals ready. With 2 small children and full-time job off the farm, I don’t get to drive tractors or be out in the fields as much as I’d like to! I’m not complaining; I am very thankful that I have a job and that we get to raise our kids on a family farm.”
What’s your family’s favorite recipe?
“Chicken Alfredo! We always have boneless skinless chicken breasts, linguine, and pasta sauce on hand. I cut the chicken breasts into chunks and sauté them while the linguine is cooking (my husband prefers linguine noodles to fettucini noodles). The secret is the sauce, though. We LOVE Kraft Roasted Garlic Parmesan Alfredo Sauce (and no, I’m not being paid for this! It’s the only alfredo sauce we buy). Warm the sauce while the noodles & chicken are cooking. Drain the noodles, and then add the sauce and chicken and viola! A delicious & easy dish.”
You are on the go a lot – whether it’s taking meals to the fields or doing a family activity. What’s your favorite portable meal?
“It’s easiest to make sandwiches! But a good hot meal that transports well is hamburger rice hot dish. It sticks together so doesn’t get too messy, it stays hot when wrapped in towels or placed in a thermal bag, and it can be easily eaten with a plastic silverware and paper plates. Add a side of vegetables or fruit, butter some bread, grab a jug of milk and glasses with lids, and there’s an easy portable meal.”
What do you value most in life?
“My family and my faith. God has truly blessed me.”
As a farm family, what’s one thing you would like to say to other moms who are in the grocery stores buying foods for their families?
“Have confidence that the food you’re buying at the grocery store is safe. I buy our groceries at our local stores, and I don’t let trends or labels dictate my food-buying decisions. I know what my family likes and will eat, so I don’t base my decisions on labels. From my involvement in CommonGround, I’ve gotten to know farm women all across the United States, and I love learning how they raise their crops and livestock. I have learned that all of these women dearly love their families and their farms, and that we have a lot in common. Their goals are to produce healthy, safe, and sustainable food — just like me. So when you’re at the grocery store, know that there isn’t a “right” or “wrong” choice when it comes to labels, and that many of those items came from family farms, grown by people who probably have things in common with you.”
Thank you Kristie for sharing your story and your recipe with us! Whether it’s getting a meal ready in less than 30 minutes, having a busy family or valuing family and faith, there are many moms out there that have the same struggles and values (myself included!). If you would like to know more about the women of Find Our Common Ground, visit the website: www.findourcommonground.com.
Jen Haugen, RDN, LD is a mom, award-winning registered dietitian and writer. Read more CommonGround Mom2Mom Features from Jen Haugen at her “Down-To-Earth Dietitian” blog, www.jenhaugen.com.